They Are Both A Hard Sell For Dinosaurs.

This is a note for my fellow change agents out there, the ones enabling the slow upgrade in workplace productivity by continuously experimenting and pushing for progress. This is also a note for the stone-faced Luddites that stand in our way.

Have you ever tried to collaborate on a complex project with a remote team using a conference call system? Every time I am forced to participate in one of these sick torture sessions three thoughts blink continuously in my mind:

1) How much extra time is this taking because we cannot see facial expressions?

2) How much work could we have all been doing during that lost time?

3) Would a “can and string” be more effective?

Perhaps you are among the enlightened few that use a video conference system to facilitate remote meetings? Or maybe you are among the smaller but growing number of professionals that have begun to leverage social tools like Podio or Yammer, which integrate video and cloud-based file sharing? If so, then I do not need to remind you how much more work you are getting done or how much more efficient these tools make your job, you already know.

It is worth remembering, however, that somewhere along the line, someone had to stick their neck out for you to have these competitive advantages. You see, despite their obvious value, they may have represented a perceived threat to the old guard, the Luddites, the ostriches. These are the same people that dominate live meetings with loud personalities, the people that talk over others on conference calls and the people that believe CCing everyone in the office on anything of any significance amounts to everyone “being on the same page.” They believe that seniority is on par with intelligence.

Although there are many, many exceptions a whole whack of these people are Baby Boomers.

We sit on the edge of a new dawn where we can easily contribute to complex projects on our phone while sitting on the subway. We are now fully able to show up to a meeting despite being on the other side of the planet. Instead of a silent Power Point deck we can have a shared, interactive mind map/white board AND the bloody Power Point all in hand while we video conference in our underwear. In short, we have the technology, we have the tools. They proliferate as we speak. What we do not yet all have is the flexibility to integrate this technology into entrenched business processes.

Why? Because these very business processes serve to protect Dinosaurs, or more specifically, the hierarchical organizational structures many Baby Boomers hold so dear. As there are many, many exceptions, I use the term “Dinosaur” to describe those Baby Boomers that are both A) loath to change business processes so close to their retirement and B) fear that collaborative social tools might successfully democratize the workplace they inherited the old fashioned way.

The Dinosaur is easy to spot: they are usually 1-3 years away from retirement, they are immensely proud of being able to successfully “attach” files to emails and “do not have time” for learning new tools. The last new tool the dinosaur learned how to use was email. In some cases they even delegate email duties to an assistant or secretary.

If you are like me you have experienced, to put it nicely, the inefficiency of email, at least for purposes of collaboration. Yet, email remains the staple of the working world. Somehow, email has embedded itself in the minds of decision makers the same way other redundant concepts from the industrial revolution have like “units of labor” or “top-down management”. Personally, I feel email is a small step up from leaving notes under rocks for passing ships. It is an excellent way to share a formal letter and a horrible way to pass on updates, share ideas and stay in flow with a project team.

At least part of the reason email continues to hang around is that the all-powerful Dinosaurs just recently got the hang of this tool and it no longer scares them. You don’t have to sell them on its security, on its backend structural integrity or on how it will fit into the workflow of established daily routine. As long as they CC everyone on anything of any importance, email is not a threat. It can be and often is a great bullhorn and Dinosaurs can be spotted using it as such.

Effective use of social tools requires examining the processes a business has already established, freezing them, pulling them apart, optimizing them and then unfreezing them to build in the use of a social tool. In a word, it requires change. You cannot bolt on a social tool and expect it to make your current processes more efficient. This is a process not an event. Deep down dinosaurs know this to be true. Which is why they do not ever want that shit going on while they are around. In many cases examining business processes under the microscope threatens the good thing they have going and they only need to keep it going for a few more years and then they can forget about learning new tools altogether and play golf and garden or whatever they are looking forward to doing when they retire. Dinosaurs do not like to rock the boat.

So, as you relish that new app-based solution for project management that is both free and saves the company, net effect, 400 man-hours of time over the course of a year, makes your job enjoyable and empowers everyone on your team while keeping your clients engaged, remember to quietly thank that brave soul that pushed for it to happen. They risked being eaten by a Dinosaur.

Finally, if you work in an environment that seems modern (everyone has computers) but feels like an 18th century workhouse (everyone spends 80% of their day answering emails) and you feel you have the social tool that will save the day, think twice. There is a reason why “change management” is the most popular corporate training theme for the last twenty years and there is a reason why the majority of companies have not adopted these tools yet. The reason is tied to that old saying, “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.”

Especially just before they retire.

See original article: Medium